fresh voices from the front lines of change







Cheryl Harrington’s story is the coveted “American Dream” story. She is the daughter of immigrant parents who set up two small bakeries in Boston, where she learned the business by spending almost every moment of her childhood helping to bake holiday cakes, pies and cookies.

Her dream has long been opening a bakery of her own. When her younger son graduated from college in May 2011, Harrington decided it was time for her to finally pursue that dream.

Cheryl opened Shortcake Bakery in Hyattsville, Md., a 20-minute drive northeast of the U.S. Capitol, just over two years ago. She welcomed 50 customers on her first day.

“Owning your own business is an amazing experience,” Harrington said with a wide smile earlier today as a crowd surrounded her at the bakery that included House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.).

The crowd was there to watch Pelosi and Edwards discuss what they call “Middle Class Jumpstart,” a “families-first action plan that will expand prosperity and opportunities for all Americans.” The goal is to enable other women – and men – to achieve the financial security Harrington is trying to achieve, either throw owning a business or finding a good-paying job in which they are treated fairly.

“The best thing we can do to grow our economy is to unleash the power of women in the workplace,” Pelosi said. “We need to be investing in good jobs and opportunities in our own country, not sending them overseas.”

Pelosi introduced the phrase “womenomics” as the idea embodying President Obama’s phrase at the State of the Union, “when women succeeds, America succeeds.” Pelosi outlined the three main items on the Democratic agenda to push for more support for women in the workplace: raising the minimum wage and guaranteeing equal pay, providing paid sick leave, and offer affordable quality childcare.

“Things can be different. We must aim for growth in our country, for good paying jobs here in America–not giving corporations tax breaks to send jobs abroad. We want Made in America, we need to build the infrastructure necessary to achieve that here,” Pelosi said.

“Cheryl is our community role-model and leader. She is a passionate woman who made her own dream come true through hard work,” Rep. Edwards said at the event.

“Cheryl worked so hard–she took every class that we offered. ‘How to write your own business plan’ to ‘How to do your finances’–she was always there,” said Melissa Dent, a Business Specialist with Maryland Small Business Development Center.

The result is that Harrington has made Shortcake her own unique bakery. the tables there were used doors with a glass layered on top. She even used the old pizzeria’s oven to bake her first years’ batches of bread.

The Democratic Party’s new proposal, Middle Class Jumpstart, aims to pass “bold, concrete initiatives to jump-start the middle class and those working to get into the middle-class”. The three-pronged plan has three top priorities: “Better Jobs at Home”, “When Women Succeed, America Succeeds”, and “Affordable Education to Keep America #1”. Democrats plan to push these measures forward within 100 days of a Democratic House majority.

Specific legislation on the agenda include:

  • “21st Century Make It in America Act” to provide tax incentives for creating good-paying jobs here at home.
  • “Build America Bonds Act” to boost job growth and modernize America’s infrastructure by building roads, bridges, broadband technology and investing in clean energy initiatives–paid for by closing corporate tax loopholes.
  • “Paycheck Fairness Act” to guarantee both women and men get equal pay for equal work, and the “Healthy Families Act” to ensure paid sick leave for men and women, and increase access to affordable child care.

This morning’s event was the first of a series of upcoming community gatherings in August. Today highlighted the crucial role of women leaders in our local communities.

The battle here is clear: America’s middle class or corporate special interests? Republicans have repeatedly sided with the latter. Instead of providing more opportunities for the majority of Americans, they have chosen to give tax breaks to companies pushing jobs overseas, blocked plans to lower student loan debt, and voted against measures to ensure equal pay for equal work.

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